Assassins fate, p.85
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       Assassin's Fate, p.85

         Part #3 of The Fitz and The Fool Trilogy series by Robin Hobb

  I looked down at the emptied eggshells. Had he thought to buy me?

  ‘I could have poisoned you,’ he said, a slight edge to his voice in response to my silence.

  ‘No. You couldn’t have. All those years, when you raided the Pale Woman’s food supplies, you never poisoned her. I know there is no killer in you, Prilkop. You should be glad of that.’

  ‘And it is a part of you that you can never tear from your soul.’

  ‘That is likely.’

  ‘I brought you food. Can we not trade that for the lives of my Whites?’

  I was silent, weighing that. He took my silence as a rejection of his offer. He stood abruptly. ‘I do not think we have ever truly been friends, FitzChivalry Farseer.’

  I came slowly to my feet. ‘I am sad to agree with you, Prilkop, but I give you my greatest respect.’

  ‘And I cede the same to you.’ He offered me a peculiar bow, one that involved stretching out one leg behind him. It was more stiff than graceful, and I suspect it cost the old man an effort. I returned a very formal Buckkeep bow to him.

  And so we parted. I never saw Prilkop again

  As the sun grew stronger, I took shelter in a thorn thicket. The bottle of wine was my companion. After I’d consumed it, I slept the rest of the day away. I awoke hungry again, but in much better condition. Even my eyesight had improved, and Nighteyes remarked, You see in the dark much as I once did.

  And as we once did, we hunt together.

  If Prilkop had warned Capra of danger, she had not heeded him. Perhaps he had judged me too feeble to pursue my prey immediately. Perhaps he had thought her well-guarded. It was easy to find her. I ghosted through Clerres until I found a large stone building where the debris had been cleared from the street and a new roof begun. She had a few guards, but I did not have to kill any of them. The guarded doors and windows faced the street front, but I went to the back of the building. Silently, my silver hand slowly eased away old stone and mortar. I made my own entrance.

  Somehow, they had found a fine bed for her. The tall wooden bedposts upheld lacy curtains. I woke her before I killed her. My grip silenced her and I whispered to her startled eyes, ‘For my Beloved and for my Bee, you die.’ It was my only indulgence. With silvered hands I strangled her. My Wit told me of her panic and pain and terror. But I killed her as if she were a rabbit. I did not delay her death, but I did look into her eyes until she was no longer behind them. I hearkened back to Chade’s earliest training. I went in, I killed, and I departed. And I took her half-eaten chicken with me.

  It was delicious.

  As the sun rose, I was moving parallel to the road that led away from Clerres.


  * * *

  Vivacia’s Voyage

  I mourn the good paper and lovely leather covers of the books my father gave to me. They are gone, sent to the bottom with all the goods and possessions of those who captained and crewed Paragon. I do not miss the writing on those pages. The journal was written by a child whom I barely recall. The dreams she wrote are irrelevant, markers on paths that no longer exist. The few that yet may be will come to pass with or without ink on a page.

  New dreams now come to me, and Beloved urges me to write them down. I do not like to call him Beloved. And when I called him Fool once he flinched and the captain of this ship looked at me as if I were rude. Before others, I call him Teacher. He does not seem to mind. I will not name him Amber.

  I no longer have a book, but Beloved has given me sheets of paper and a simple pen and black ink. I think he has begged these things from Captain Wintrow.

  This is my first dream to record. An old tree blossoms and bears a single beautiful fruit. It falls to the ground and rolls away. It cracks open and a woman wearing a silver crown steps out of it.

  I am sad that I must draw this only in black on white paper.

  He has told me that he will read the dreams I write. That he must so that he can guide me. I write here what I have already told him, that he may read it again. I will not let my dreams be used to shape the world. And regardless of what he promised my father, I find it intrusive and rude that he reads my words here.

  Bee Farseer’s journal

  We put Clerres behind us, and I was not sorry to do so. The only tear I felt was that my father was left behind, dead and unburned, in such a horrid place.

  The ship spoke in my mind the instant I set foot on the deck. Who are you? And why do you ring so strangely on my senses?

  I walled my mind as well as I could, but that only spiced her interest in me. She pushed at me, and it was like being prodded in the chest with a forefinger. I don’t know why you sense me. I am Bee Farseer. I was a prisoner of the Servants in Clerres. I only want to go home.

  A very strange thing happened then: I felt the ship wall me out. But it was more relief than insult.

  We were a rag-tag group that boarded Vivacia. The adults had already spoken to one another while I slept. It little mattered what they had agreed upon. I was like the nut carried in the stream. I was swept along by my fate.

  On board the ship, hammocks were hung for us, but there were no walls to divide us from the regular crew. I did not care. The moment my hammock was hung, I clambered into it and fell asleep. I awakened shortly after to incredulous shouts from the deck. I forced myself to roll until I fell out of the hammock. I hurried from the crew’s quarters up onto the deck, fearing the ship was being attacked.

  The tide had carried some of the wreckage from old Paragon out to sea. And clinging to it was a survivor. Spark’s hopes were dashed when they hauled aboard a dazed and sunburned woman. This was Boy-O’s mother and Brashen’s wife, and she was somehow related to Captain Wintrow. The liveship thrummed with joy, the timbers vibrating. I stayed to see her brought aboard and given water, and then returned to my hammock. I cried—not with joy but jealousy—and slept again.

  On this ship, Beloved became a person named Amber. I had no idea why he had so many names, or why he was now a woman. Everyone else seemed to accept it. I thought of how my father had been Tom Badgerlock as well as FitzChivalry Farseer, and perhaps I was the same. Bee Badgerlock, Bee Farseer. The Destroyer.

  Bee the orphan.

  Two days into our voyage, I woke to Per standing beside my hammock looking at me. ‘Is there danger?’ I asked, sitting up, and he caught me before I pitched to the deck again. It was not just the hammock. The ship was rolling.

  ‘No, but you have been sleeping a lot. You should get up and eat some food and move about.’

  When he mentioned food, my body asserted that it was hungry, and very thirsty. He led me through the jungle of hammocks to a long table with benches alongside it. There were a few people sitting at it, finishing food. And a plate with a bowl covering it. ‘To keep it warm,’ Per told me.

  It was a thick stew that smelled strange, yet was also good. Cinnamon and a creamy but sour smell. Onions and potato pieces. The meat was mutton, Per claimed, but it was not tough and stringy. Per pushed a large bowl of boiled brown seeds toward me. ‘It’s rice. They tell me it grows in a swamp and they harvest it in boats. Try it with the stew. It’s good.’

  I ate until my belly felt tight and Per had scraped the bottom of the big black kettle clean. ‘Want to come out on the deck now?’ he invited, but I shook my head.

  ‘I want to sleep,’ I told him.

  He frowned at that, but walked back to the hammock with me and helped me into it. ‘Are you sick, to sleep this much?’ he asked me.

  I shook my head. ‘It’s easier than being awake,’ I told him, and closed my eyes.

  I awoke again but didn’t open my eyes to hear them whispering about me. ‘But she sleeps so much. It’s all she does!’ Per, worried.

  ‘Let her sleep. It means she feels safe. She’s getting the rest she didn’t get the whole time they had her. And sorting things out. When I came back … when Fitz took me back to Buckkeep Castle, for many days after I spent most of my time in sleep. It’s the great hea

  Nonetheless, a few hours later when I opened my eyes, Per was beside my hammock. ‘Are you awake enough to talk now? I want to know everything that has happened to you since last we were together. And I have much to tell you.’

  ‘I have not so much to tell you. They stole me, and they dragged me to Clerres. They treated me badly.’ I stopped speaking. I didn’t want to recount it for Perseverance or anyone else.

  He nodded. ‘Not yet, then. But I shall tell you of all I have done and seen since you covered me with the butterfly cloak and left me in the snow.’

  I climbed out of the hammock and we went out on the deck. It was a fine blue day. He took me to a place near the figurehead, but not in anyone’s way. He told me his story, and it sounded to me like a tale of heroes on a quest. I wondered if Hap would ever make a song of it. I cried several times, to hear of all my father and Per had done to seek me. But they were good tears as well as sad ones. In all the days when I had wondered why my father had not come to save me, I had wondered if he had ever loved me at all. I went back to my hammock and my sleep knowing that he had.

  It was the ship that woke me the next time. She drilled through my walls. Please help us. Come to me, at the foredeck. You are needed.

  I thought I would wake the others when I dropped and fell from the hammock to the deck. It was always dark belowdecks, but from the number of occupied hammocks around me, I guessed it was night. There was a single dim lantern, swinging with the motion of the ship. I didn’t like to look at it. I made my way through hammocks full of sleeping sailors like ripe fruit hanging on a tree, through shifting shadows to a ladder. I went up onto Vivacia’s deck.

  The wind was blowing fresh and I was suddenly glad to be awake. I looked up. The canvas was belled out like a rich merchant’s belly, and beyond it were realms of stars in a clear sky. The deck of a sailing ship is never deserted when underway, but tonight’s wind was steady and kind, so not many sailors were scurrying about. No one noticed me as I moved forward. There was a short set of steps and then I was on the crowded foredeck. All sorts of lines terminated there; they were taut and humming a wind song. Past them was a smaller deck, a feature I’d never seen, that poked out toward the figurehead. On that deck, a man was stretched out. As I stepped toward him cautiously, two other people stirred. I recognized one of them. Boy-O’s father, Captain Brashen Trell. Captain of nothing now, I guessed, and his son burned and still. I’d almost forgotten that we’d regained Boy-O’s mother. Her face and arms were pebbled; I stared and then recognized that they were the healing blisters from where the sun had burned her. She looked at my scarred face and her brows drew together in pity. I looked away.

  Her name is Althea Vestrit. If the past had been a bit different she would be my captain now. Regardless of that, she is still of my liveship family. As is her son. And Trell served on my decks for many years, and I value him as well.

  ‘What do you want of me?’ I spoke the words aloud and in my mind.

  The ship didn’t answer. ‘She’s here!’ Brashen Trell was wearily surprised. ‘Althea, this is the child I told you about. The one they came to rescue. She touched Boy-O in Clerres, and where she touched him, his burns healed.’

  ‘Hello Bee,’ she said. Softly and sadly she added, ‘I am sorry that you lost your father.’

  ‘Thank you,’ I replied. Was it correct to thank someone for feeling bad about a death? I knew why the ship had summoned me now. Boy-O smelled bad. When I knelt beside him, I felt how the ship cradled him. It was not that there was a hollow in her deck where she held him. But where he touched her wizardwood, she reminded him how to be alive, and gave him gentle memories of his time on her deck. Memories that were not just his, but his mother’s and his grandfather’s and his great-grandmother’s. All had sailed on this ship. Vivacia held all the memories of those who had died on her deck.

  ‘That’s why the dragons ate Kennitsson,’ I said to myself.


  ‘Paragon’s dragons ate Kennitsson?’ Althea asked in disbelief.

  ‘They meant well by it. They wanted to keep him with them. They shared the body.’

  ‘Oh.’ She touched Boy-O. ‘Did you need something?’ She wanted me to leave.

  ‘The ship asked me to come here. She wants me to help.’

  ‘What can—’ Althea began.

  ‘Ssh,’ Brashen warned her, for I had already put my hands on Boy-O’s good arm. I wanted to fix him. He was a wrong place on this perfect ship. I should make him right. ‘He’s thirsty,’ I told his parents.

  ‘He hasn’t moved or spoken today.’

  ‘He’s thirsty,’ I insisted. He needed water if I was going to make anything happen.

  His mother seemed afraid to touch him as she lifted his head. She trickled water into his dry mouth. He choked a little, swallowed. That was my first way to help him. ‘More water,’ I told her. She held the cup to his lips while I reminded him how to drink. He drank that cup, and three more. Now I could move within him more easily. ‘That salty soup that you make sometimes. It’s yellow. That would be good.’

  Even without opening my eyes, I knew they stared at me. The woman got up and hurried away. She was frightened and she was eager to do anything that might help her son. She would make the soup.

  I rocked gently as my hands talked to his body. I found a little tune, one I’d never known before, and began to hum it as I worked. Two voices began to sing words to the song. The ship and the father sang softly together, and it was a little song about knots and sails, a teaching song like my father’s rhyme about the points one looked for in a good horse. I wondered, as I pushed dead skin and flesh away and fastened good skin, if every family and every trade had those little songs. I found a place where something that didn’t belong in his body was trying to grow. I killed it and pushed it away. It slid away like slime, stinky and nasty.

  His body was working on itself in so many places. I knew them all. He had breathed in hot smoke, and it had hurt his throat and the breathing parts inside him. His arm was burned, and his chest and the side of his face. What was the worst hurt? I asked his body, and it was his arm. I went to work there.

  His mother came back with the soup in a pot. ‘Oh, sweet Sa!’ she exclaimed. She was less fearful as she cradled his head and held the cup to his lips. It smelled wonderful and I remembered how good it would taste, salty and a bit sour. He drank it down, and where I had worked on his throat, he could swallow now.

  ‘What goes on here?’

  ‘Amber! She’s helping Boy-O.’

  ‘She has to stop! She’s only a child. How can you ask this of her?’

  ‘We didn’t ask her! We were keeping a death-watch with him. Then she came and put her hands on him. He’s going to live. Boy-O is going to live!’

  ‘But will she?’ He was angry. Beloved was angry—no, frightened. He spoke to me now. ‘Bee. Stop. You can’t do this.’

  I drew a deep breath. ‘Yes I can,’ I told him as I breathed out.

  ‘No. You are giving him too much of your own strength. Lift your hands from him.’

  I smiled as I remembered words I had given my father. ‘No one can say no to me now. Not even you.’

  ‘Bee. Now!’

  I smiled. ‘No.’

  ‘Lift your hands, Bee, or I will pull you back from him!’

  Did he know that that would hurt both of us? ‘A moment more,’ I told him, and heard the frustrated noise he made. I told Boy-O’s body to fare well, told it to keep working, gently, gently, gently, I had to go now, but it should keep working, yes, we would give it more soup. It was like calming an animal, and I suddenly knew that Boy-O’s mind lived inside his animal body, and that was who I spoke to.

  I opened my eyes. Beloved reached toward me. I lifted my hands before he could touch me. I folded my arms on my chest and sat back. I hadn’t realized how long I’d been crouching over Boy-O. My back complained when I moved. I wiped my hands down my shirt. They were wet and sticky.

And then I knew something. ‘Ship, you tricked me! You made me want to do this.’

  The carved woman turned slightly toward me. ‘It was necessary.’

  ‘She’s a child!’ Beloved objected. ‘You used her ruthlessly.’

  ‘I didn’t realize,’ Brashen said, and he sounded both guilty and unrepentant.

  ‘It didn’t hurt me,’ I objected, but when I tried to stand up, I could not.

  The mother offered me a cup of the soup from the pot and I drank it in long sips. There were warm spices in it and some of them stung my tongue. Beloved watched me drink. Boy-O was breathing, and it was a good sound. I set the cup down on the deck and said, ‘The ship made me love her. I think it was like that thing dragons can do …’ I was suddenly very tired again. ‘When they make themselves so important to someone. I read about that. Somewhere.’

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